Rivkin team helps migrant teen find safety


Last November, Jennifer Abreu, Evelyn Arboleda, Laura Gindele and Sean Gorton, led by Henry Mascia and under the supervision of Alan Rutkin, raced against the clock to stop the removal proceedings against an unaccompanied Guatemalan minor.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) referred the case to Rivkin Radler, which the firm took in March 2021 on a pro bono basis. KIND provides support to pro bono attorneys, and the firm has worked with the organization for many years.

Keydel (we are using only his first name to protect his anonymity) was repeatedly abused by his father physically, verbally and emotionally. Seeking safety, Keydel fled Guatemala for America. He was detained at the border, where the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORSORR), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, took initial custody of him. Keydel explained that he has a sister in New York, so ORSORR released him to her care. When he arrived in New York, he was put into removal proceedings to send him back to Guatemala. That’s when Rivkin and KIND got involved.

The firm appeared at Immigration Court with Keydel for his removal proceeding and advised him of the charges against him and his possible avenues for relief.

At the time the firm began work on the case, Keydel was 19 years old. The team determined that Keydel’s best chance of remaining in the U.S. legally was to obtain special immigrant juvenile status.

Establishing juvenile status requires dealing with three different administrative bodies:  Family Court, Immigration Court, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security. And the paperwork required to establish special juvenile status must be filed before Keydel turns 21.

But first, the team needed to secure guardianship for Keydel in Family Court since he is a minor. That involved enlisting a family member to personally serve his parents in Guatemala with the guardianship petition and motion for special findings.

The Rivkin Radler team also had to convince the Court to make a finding that it has legal custody over his care in New York since he is a minor, which relied on the Court finding that he was abused, neglected or abandoned by his parent and unable to remain in the parent’s care.

The week of October 24, the team filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security asking the agency to qualify Keydel, who is now 20 years old, for special immigrant status. The agency could take up to a year to make its determination.

This was a true team effort. Jennifer, Laura and Sean interviewed Keydel and his sister, prepared affidavits and the guardianship petition, drafted the motion for special findings and presented the case before Family Court. Since Henry is the most familiar with the system, he quarterbacked the process, assigning the tasks, reviewing our attorneys’ work, appearing before the Immigration Court and then appearing with the other three attorneys at Family Court. Evelyn acted as translator and provided emotional support to Keydel.

The team’s next step is to return to Immigration Court and ask it to close Keydel’s case until Homeland Security decides whether to grant him special immigrant juvenile status, which will temporarily end the removal proceedings. Once Homeland Security grants the petition, Rivkin Radler’s pro bono team will help Keydel apply for his green card so that he can be in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident.

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